Archive for the 'Parent-to-Parent' Category

Kindness counts

"be kind" in chalk

Sunday marked the beginning of “Random Acts of Kindness” week. Knowing it was coming up, I decided to run a two-week experiment in our household; I’ve heard it takes two weeks to make something a habit.

Our family dinners always include a report of the day by each family member. My husband and I ask our kids to share a banana split (something good about their day) and a banana peel (something hard). A few weeks ago, my husband decided to also ask the kids, “What was something kind you did for someone today?” In theory, this was a great idea! Unfortunately, we sometimes got side tracked by our banana splits/banana peels and forgot to follow up with the kindness question.

For the past two weeks, my husband and I recommitted ourselves to asking our kids every evening at dinner, “How were you kind today?”

Here are some highlights:

  • By the third night, the kids were reporting their kind act without being prompted by the adults.
  • The gestures progressed into more authentic acts of kindness as the two weeks progressed. For example, “I held the door open for my teacher” became “I asked John to sit with me at lunch because he looked unsure about where to sit.”
  • One act of kindness became several acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • By participating ourselves, we modeled a variety of kind acts and that encouraged our kids to show kindness in different ways (to a friend, to a stranger, to themselves, to a pet, etc.).
  • The kind acts began — and I use that term lightly 🙂 — to filter into the kids’ relationships with each other.

In our house, kindness counts. It’s a family value and now it’s become something we all practice daily.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, CT. She is also a mom to a 15, 13, 10 and 5-year-old.

I see you

tired man rubbing his temples

Cropped image. Mic445, Flickr. CC license.

I see you. Yeah, you. The parent struggling. Trying so hard to hold it together. You’re there. I’m here. You’re not alone.

I was talking to a mom of adult children recently and she was telling me how she almost lost her mind when her son wouldn’t put on socks. I told her that happened with one of my kids and the solution for us was to turn his socks inside out. She got so excited when I said that—she thought it only happened to them.

That’s the funny thing about parenting. You often feel so alone, but in reality, you’re not. Kids have always hated seams on socks and tags on shirts. Your kids aren’t the first and they won’t be the last.

I have a friend whose child is a fabulous eater: broccoli, soup, steak, she eats it all. On the other hand, I have a child who, more for control than taste, has become extremely picky. This change seems to have happened overnight. Our policies haven’t changed: I serve one thing for dinner; take it or leave it. I don’t serve anything off the wall. But this kid just won’t eat. My wit’s end is fast approaching. But when one of my Facebook friends with small kids posted, “I hate dinnertime,” that seemed to help.

With each of these moments, where you feel like you’re so alone, I’m guessing your conscience doubles down on you and declares this bad parenting. You screwed up and now your kid will be screwed up forever.

You’re not alone now, either. And, you probably don’t even get to claim any “worst parent” awards any time soon, so don’t start writing your acceptance speech.

I’m telling you this now, because this is where I am at the moment. I can’t seem to get it right as a mom, and I sure don’t know how to fix it. Just know I’m in the trenches with you. So is everyone else. You got this. I promise.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Random Halloween musings

My childhood Halloween outings took place in the 1980s. Never being one particularly fond of dressing up, my costume was usually one that was handed down from a random friend of my parents or cobbled together from cast-off sporting goods. My younger brother—also not one to go out of his way for, well, anything—usually ended up dressing as whatever I’d impersonated the year before.

One such costume we both experienced was the Smurf. A typical offering of the era, this costume was composed of only two parts: a rigid, plastic Smurf-face mask secured with a flimsy elastic band around the head, and a plastic vest/shield/tunic thing upon which was a silkscreened image of a frolicking Smurf. Vision was strictly limited to what was directly ahead and respiration was limited to near-asphyxiation. Mobility was hampered by the ill-fitting tunic thing. Misery was imminent. But candy was the ultimate goal, so the misery was borne.

And speaking of candy … what was the item you most feared? You know. The one you never, ever wanted to see in the depths of your Holly Hobby pillowcase but yet somehow always ended up with in abundance? This is a trick question because there is only one right answer: Good & Plenty. There must have been some wacky individual working in his candy lab, twirling his handlebar mustache and speculating to himself: “How would young, innocent children best enjoy nasty licorice?” Encapsulating it in a chalky white substance isn’t quite icky enough so let’s make it interesting and also use some chalky pink substance! Mwahahahahaha!

Back to costumes. Kids these days experience Halloween in a much different fashion (no pun intended). Store-bought costumes are detailed, readily identifiable, and breathable! For those who want to up their game, Pinterest brings the DIY attempt to a whole new level. Of course, it’s easy to become overwhelmed simply by the sheer number of choices at hand! Basing one’s selection on price is useless, as all costumes retail for the same cost as that of a small car. Choosing based on popularity is also tricky, as manufacturers employ small armies of researchers who can pinpoint trends months in advance and use their brand knowledge to exact maximum dollars from consumer’s wallets. Thus, everything on the shelves is trendy and current. Everything is equally necessary in the eyes of the young “costumees.” What is a parent to do?

To achieve that unique, yet inexpensive, costumed visage, perhaps one should look to less current ideas for inspiration. For the right bribe incentive, I just might have a Smurf costume to lend out. Just don’t try to use a bag of Good & Plenty as a bartering tool.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and avid licorice avoider.

The stranger things of parenting

young girl making a silly face

Cropped image. Philip Dean, Flickr. CC license.

Sure, we all know having kids changes everything. Sleep deprivation, cold food, bodily fluids and more become part of the everyday. The ho-hum.

But there are some surprises—things that I find bewildering that happen with kids. These are the Bermuda Triangle Parenting Issues.

There will be toothpaste everywhere.

I have no idea how this happens. Not only are there large clumps in the sink (at least that part makes sense), but also, it’s down the cabinets, on the floors, and once, on my husband’s comb (unbeknownst to him). My friend has to wash her shower curtain on a regular basis because of toothpaste. It’s like The Blob.

You will go through hand towels faster than Bed, Bath & Beyond on Black Friday.

Every day and sometimes more, we need a new hand towel in the bathroom. I’d like to think the kids are using it to wash their hands, but I’m not that naïve. The towel is sopping, smushy, sticky or any combination of the above. Often, toothpaste is involved. Sometimes, it’s in the toilet. Or completely missing altogether. See, Bermuda Triangle.

Food will take on strange names.

The other day, we wanted Chinese food. Knowing that the kids wouldn’t eat it, we referred to it as “Ninjago food.” It went down faster than a chubby kid on a seesaw. We also have “ground apples” (onions), “flat ravioli” (lasagna), and just about every meat is called “chicken.”

toothpaste cap on light switch

Exhibit “A”

You will find things in strange places.

For an entire week this summer, one of my darlings kept putting the hand soap on the floor in the corner of the bathroom. Purposefully. Also, see the photo, labeled “Exhibit A.” That’s just last week at my house. Yes, that’s a toothpaste cap on the light switch. *shrug*

Laundry becomes more of an adventure.

Yeah, there’s piles of laundry. But now, underwear and pants are always melded into one. Clothes are always inside out. And you will wash lots of things that aren’t clothing: LEGO, toys, bits of food (mac ‘n cheese holds up remarkably well), candy, crayons, markers, loose change and countless stickers. The inside of my dryer has several stickers that will not come off. One is Elsa. I know the cold never bothers her, but what about the heat?

But, like anything, everything becomes the new normal. I can’t tell you how often I assess for damages/potential danger, shrug and move on. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.


So I brush her hair

brushing red hair

All of a sudden I find myself the mom of a tween. It happened in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday that princess dresses, tutus, and American Girl dolls were her focus; now I have a confident, responsible, independent 12-year-old girl who knows what she likes and doesn’t like. She practices with makeup, has her own sense of style, manages all of her school stuff on her own, and even does some cooking.

Sometimes I wonder if she even needs me anymore. As a mom, it’s sort of a weird place to be. I mean, I know she needs me and will for a long time, but it’s just different. We have a good relationship and are doing our best to navigate her transition to a young woman together, and I’m learning as I go.

About six months ago, I found myself really missing my girl — missing her needing me to take care of her the way she did when she was younger and not so self-sufficient. I know, I know, that may be a little irrational, but I had a moment. In my logical mind I know that this is a natural progression, but my mama-heart took over. She had just showered and was getting ready for bed, dressed in her bath robe with wet hair, and I looked up from reading and asked, “Would you like me to brush your hair?” She said yes and so I did. It felt good to do that for her, and it was nice to have some quiet time just the two of us to talk about whatever.

A few days later she asked me herself if I would do it, and since that time it’s something that has happened many times, and I love it. To think something I once took for granted — all the years of chasing her with a brush to get her wild, red hair tamed — now has become such a precious gift.

So if you, like me, have found yourself parenting a girl on the verge of becoming a young lady and you’re missing the “old days,” may I suggest that you brush her hair? It may be just the thing you are looking for to fill the void.

– Kelly Ryan, MSW, Parenting Program, Postpartum Adjustment Coordinator

What I said to my child in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy

mom with arm around daughter

The original title of this article was “What to say to your child in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas,” but then I realized that was a bit arrogant. I can’t tell you what to say to your child about this senseless act of madness. Every child is different and every family has their own views and values. However, I can tell you about the interaction I had with my child. I was inspired to write this because after we talked, my daughter walked away lighter, not darker. And after all, isn’t that the goal?

First of all, let me say that it is my belief that in an ideal world, children wouldn’t have to worry about mass shootings, natural disasters, scary diseases, or Mom and Dad’s financial woes. I think that kids should be kids, and not have to concern themselves with adult things. But that is not the world we live in. And contrary to what I’ve seen recently on social media and in news reports, that is not new. For example, when my Dad was a kid, he practiced hiding under his desk at school in the event of a nuclear attack. When I was a child, parents took their kids’ Halloween candy to the police station to be X-rayed looking for razor blades. The difference now is how ever-present the reports of that ugliness are. Social media and 24-hour cable news make shielding our kids from hearing about the frightening things in the world impossible. So we have to talk about it.

I also need to preface this conversation with a little information about my kid. I actually have three kids, but the older two are old enough that they process these events without a lot of help from me. My baby, however, still needs me. My youngest is a naïve, though intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive kid who takes everything to heart. That’s a tough thing to be in junior high under the best of circumstances, and Las Vegas did not present us with the best of circumstances.

The morning after the shooting: “Mom. About what happened. In Las Vegas. I don’t understand.”

I told her, “Of course you don’t. I don’t understand it. We are sane, rational, reasonable and caring people. We cannot possibly understand the actions of a madman. I wish I could explain to you why he did this, but I don’t think anyone is ever going to be able to explain it. There are bad people in the world, and sometimes they do bad things. Sometimes they do horrific things. But there’s something I want you to think about.

“Yesterday, one bad man did one very bad thing. But in response, hundreds of good people did amazing things. People in Las Vegas opened their homes and businesses to strangers so that they could shelter in safety. Other heroes put injured people in their cars to drive them to get medical help because there weren’t enough ambulances. People stood in line for five hours to donate blood to help the wounded. Policemen, fire fighters and other first responders ran into danger to get people out of danger. And total strangers threw themselves on top of nearby people to protect them from harm. And you know what? There were a lot more good people than that one bad man.” (Here she asked me why we don’t hear more about these stories on the news. I assured her that I did hear most of these stories on the news, I just had to look a little harder for them because bad news is click bait but that’s a discussion for another time). I continued with: “And furthermore, baby, regardless of what you’ve been hearing on the news lately not one of those heroes asked the religion, race or political leaning of the people they helped.

“So remember there is evil in this world, but there is far more good in it. And despite what some people are trying to make you believe, we are more alike than we are different, and there is far more that unites us than divides us.”

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program volunteer

“Leave me alone!” Life with a threenager

little girl pouting

My daughter, C, turned three over the summer. “Whew, we survived the terrible twos. It’s finally going to get easier,” I thought to myself. However, as C approached her third birthday, people starting throwing around this term at me: “threenager.”

“A what?” I asked.

“A threenager. You know, a 3-year-old teenager.”

“Uh, no. I’m not following.”

“It’s the like the terrible twos, but worse.”

“Worse?!” My heart sank.

I then started Googling “threenager.” Yep, it’s a thing. Apparently the terrible twos are just the start of toddler tantrumhood. Things really start to get interesting when our little one hit the 3-year mark.

In honor of this fun phase, here are a few of the threenagerisms I’ve encountered so far.

  1. Ms. Independent. While I applaud my little one for trying new things, I could do without the “I can do it myself!” snarls. (Then five seconds later, “Mama, Mama, help me, help me! HELP ME NOW!”)
  2. Highly illogical behavior. OK, tiny one, I kind of see your point when I ask you to put on your shoes and you reply, “No, they’re Crocs.” But when you yell at me because the french fries you’re eating are touching your teeth, I can’t help you.
  3. “Leave me alone!” At least once a day she blasts this exclamation to her father or me. It’s even more fun when she screams this in public accompanied by “Stop! Get away from me!” The looks, oh, the looks.
  4. Mom/Dad/anyone other than herself is always wrong. The other morning I praised C for sleeping in her own bed all night. She threw herself on the floor and screamed “No, I didn’t!” (See No. 2.)
  5. Constantly changing obsessions. TV. Underwear. Toys. Snacks. It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever she’s into, it’s intense and irregular. What she loves one day/hour/minute, disgusts her the next. Cue up Netflix to the show she’s watched for a week straight without consulting her first? Disaster. Attempt to put on the Paw Patrol pajamas she requested before bath time? Meltdown. I can’t keep up! (See No. 4.)

Fortunately, C hasn’t mastered the eye roll yet, but she’s well on her way to being seriously annoyed by the mere existence of her parents. I keep telling myself the threenager phase is good training for actual teenage angst.

Anne Hein is a past participant of the Beaumont Parenting Program, as well as a mom of a strong-willed toddler.


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